A COURT was told a woman who stole to feed her family after her benefits were sanctioned last year, had to commit crimes again after her money was stopped a second time.
On July 7, Lucy Hill stole more than £150 worth of children’s clothing from TK Maxx, in Kidderminster.
She claimed it was neccessary to commit crime so she could afford to pay her rent after she fell in to arrears when her benefits were sanctioned.
Kidderminster magistrates heard this wasn’t the first time the mother-of-one has had to resort to stealing to live after being punished for missing a job centre appointment.
In September last year, the 36-year-old stole chicken and washing powder from a local store to feed her family after she received her first sanction of her benefit, Employment Support Allowance.
Kate Price, prosecuting, said Hill filled a bag with meat products before leaving the Kidderminster Spar store without paying.
“The defendant went into the Spar – she had a bag with her. She decided to pick out meat and a packet of chicken and left the store,” she said.
“She then went back to the store two days later and took chicken and some washing powder.
“She was observed in the Spar the second time and was approached and challenged and the police were called.”
In mitigation, John Rogers said Hill, of Westcott Road, Kidderminster, felt she had no choice but to steal the items.
He said: “She received Employment Support Allowance, and from that income she maintains her partner and their child. The payment had been sanctioned because she failed to keep an appointment with the Job Centre, so what she will say is that it was necessary that she committed this offence.
“You can see from the items she stole, they are food and groceries, that she was doing it short-term for her family.”
When Hill isn’t receiving benefit sanctions, she also has serious financial difficulties according to her solicitor. On June 9, the defendant stole cheese and bacon from a convenience store, returning two more times before being caught, to sell on to raise money to pay off some debts.
In the most recent theft, Mr Rogers said Hill had made progress to improve her situation herself, and this was supported by the probation service.
A representative from the service told the court that Hill resorted to stealing because she was a previous heroin addict and “knew shoplifting was a way of raising cash”. But, as she had been clean of the drug for 10 years and had made steps to ease her financial situation, he recommended the magistrates grant her a conditional discharge.
Hill pleaded guilty to theft when she appeared at Kidderminster Magistrates’ Court on Thursday, July 23.
Chairman of the magistrates, Stephen Gillespie, who was the same magistrate who fined Hill and ordered she pay compensation to the store after her theft following the first benefit sanction, agreed with probation and Hill was given a conditional discharge for 12 months. She was also ordered to pay £150 in court charges and a £15 victim surcharge.